HUNDREDS of families have had to rely on emergency loans after being thrown into crisis by brutal welfare cuts.

A report by Inverclyde’s chief social worker today reveals that 224 loans totalling £25,823 were given out since Universal Credit was introduced a year ago.

Sharon McAlees, in her annual report to the Scottish Government, said the changes were having a significant impact on vulnerable families locally.

She said: “We’re seeing levels of poverty that dates back to 1980s. You’re having parents who have to make a direct choice between food, clothing or heating.”

Ms McAlees made her presentation to councillors at a meeting of the full council.

She said the area’s Health and Socal Care Partnership was taking a joined-up approach to help people claim the assistance they needed — but said they faced an uphill challenge.

The report said: “The impact of welfare reform in the Inverclyde community with its prevalence of poverty, deprivation and inequality is a key challenge and will continue to be the backdrop against which social work service planning and delivery takes place, with a strong emphasis on maintaining a clear line of sight to the needs of the most vulnerable in society.”

Council leader Councillor Stephen McCabe said today the changes were putting a ‘real strain’ on the lives of local families.

He said: “It’s a direct impact of welfare reform.
“As Sharon alluded to, it is not just a financial impact, it places a real burden on family life and the relationships within the family.

“Loss of money impacts on people and on the support needed to give to families working with crisis situations.

“I’m not surprised by the numbers we have been presented with. We have been getting regular reports showing that the number of loans handed out has been steadily increasing over the years.

“It’s a reflection on a number of people affected by welfare reform who find themselves in a crisis situation and so coming to the council.

“It’s not something we want to see and the consequences of these reforms is something we have been telling the government about.

“They might have good intentions, some of these policy measures are aimed to encourage people to get into work, but the reality is that it is hitting others very hard and is having a detrimental effect on many people’s lives.”

In Inverclyde, 178 of the awards were to lone parents and 46 to couples with families.

The Scottish Government says their Scottish benefits budget as been cut by £6million between 2010 and 2016 because of changes introduced by the UK Government, resulting in ordinary families losing £1,400 a year.

Inverclyde SNP leader Chris McEleny said: “If people have an issue believing what the politicians tell them then look at what the facts are telling us.

“The fact that 224 crisis grants have been handed out  here is proof that Universal Credit and the UK Government’s welfare agenda are not working for people.

“Their policies are inflicting real pain on our community. We’ve now heard expert evidence that Inverclyde is suffering levels of poverty that haven’t been seen since before 1980. 
“Shame on the UK Government.”